By Sij Ncube
BULAWAYO – The MDC-T has gone on an over-drive vehemently denying there is a rift within it, pitting party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Thokozani Khupe.
Media reports were awash early this week claiming Tsvangirai was humiliated at a rally in Bulawayo allegedly by Khupe’s agent provocateurs miffed by the party’s resolution to boycott the June 10 by-elections.
Skirmishes were reported outside the venue of Tsvangirai’s rally with the video of drunken youths baying for Tsvangirai’s blood going viral on social media.
Tsvangirai allegedly cancelled a rally in Luveve due to tension and violence, the reports added.
But Tsvangirai spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka on Monday issued a hard-hitting statement denying that any rifts existed between the two leaders, accusing the media of peddling in falsehoods.
“It is a figment of anyone’s imagination to allege a rift between President Tsvangirai and Hon. Khupe.
It is palpably mischievous to insinuate that the Party Vice President is for participation in the forthcoming by-elections in violation of a Congress resolution of a Party where she is Vice President.
“There is a strong and deliberate media campaign to equalize the MDC with Zanu PF, where a rift within the Presidency led to serious ramifications that are still being felt both within the party and in government,” said Tamborinyoka.
But Khuphe is seen as a king-maker in Bulawayo and Matabeleland hinterlands although her fiery critics claim she is punching above her weight, arguing she does not having the political clout, the charisma of Tsvangirai and let alone challenge his brand.
Some critics view her as a figure head of the party in Matabeleland, riding on the coat-tails of the MDC-T leader’s political brand.
As the presidency of the MDC, both are however see as failed politicians who have failed to remove President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF) from power for the past 15 years despite the octogenarian battling old age and factionalism in his revolutionary party.
The Tsvangirai brand has comes under scrutiny with analysts asking why he has faced challenges from within, starting with infamous spilt of October, 2005 which culminated in the formation of the Welshman Ncube led MDC.
Although the party split over whether or not it should participate in the senatorial elections, sources claimed it was largely due to Tsvangirai’s dictatorial tendencies, among other purported weaknesses, such as the need for constant hand-handling.
While the MDC-T appears content with spirited attempts of papering over the latest cracks, analysts have been quick to point out the party has been down that route before following its second infamous split after the July 31, 2013 elections.
Again then the social media was awash with reports of rifts between Tsvangirai and his former secretary general Tendai Biti over the outcome of the elections in which the MDC-T lost heavily to Mugabe and Zanu (PF), albeit under controversial circumstances.
MDC-T spin doctors again went on the over-drive denying the rift but few weeks down the line Biti and company proceed to consummate the MDC-T Renewal. There say the rest is history.
In the backcloth of reports of another rift at the top, analysts are adamant there is no smoke without fire in the MDC-T.
“With the inconsistencies in the MDC-T and the somewhat lop-sided partial pull-out from parliament, one expects divisions,” argues Maxwell Saungweme, a development analyst with a keen interest in opposition politics.
Saungweme says it is expected that Khupe, just like most MDC-T supporters in Matabeleland are not acquiesce to giving the region to Zanu (PF) on a platter.
“The question is not very much about whether Khupe has grassroots support. The issue is: does what she represents resonate with the thousands of MDC-T supporters in the region who felt betrayed by a partial pull-out from parliament. It’s clear the partial pull-out was a very fatuous idea. MDC-T should have completely pulled out and created a political crisis or remain there and continue participating. Partial pull-out is as meaningless and senseless as the idea of big tent while firing 21 MPs from parliament. As long as the MDC-T and Tsvangirai continue to engage on contradictory measures and piece-meal processes such as partial pull out, expect more division and in that party.”
Rashweat Mukundu, the chairperson of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said the denial of rifts in the MDC-T presidency was a smoke-screen.
“It is evident the two are on different paths no matter the denials. The differences are more on personal power issues,” said Mukundu, adding that the MDC-T is now a former shadow of its former self if not a shell with little to fight for except egos.
“There is nothing more to fight for in the party except maybe memories of past glory and self-importance.”
Takura Zhangazha, a political analyst, postulates that the MDC-T’s problem hinged on the fact that the party has a propensity of mimicking Zanu (PF) factionalism “step by step.”
“Khupe does not have what it takes to challenge the Tsvangirai brand but what is happening in MDC-T is called mimicking Zanu PF, ” said Zhangazha, giving as an example the amending of the MDC-T constitution to create an all-powerful presidency, ethnocentric power configurations, firing of MPs as well as lack of financial accountability in the party.
In the run-up to its 2014 congress Zanu (PF) amended its constitution giving Mugabe powers to appoint office bearers, including the two vice presidents, members of the politburo and the central committee. He allegedly fired former Vice President Joice Mujuru ostensibly because she appeared to be another centre of power as she was taunted as the next president of the republic.
“So the rifts in MDC-T are as a result of this habit of mimicking Zanu PF. If factionalism is seen as fashionable in Zanu (PF) it is copied in the MDC. This is by way of habit,” Zhangazha added.
Unless Tsvangirai and Khupe smoke the proverbial peace-pipe the party could be bracing another imminent split ahead of the 2018 polls, analysts and critics agree.